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Plant Growth Facilities Research Highlights

Roots of lettuce plants are being evaluated in the greenhouse lighting lab

Cornell AES greenhouses and plant growth chambers provide carefully controlled environments for smart, innovative research. Whether researchers are working on finding sensible solutions for urgent agricultural or environmental problems, focusing on emerging markets, or building a fundamental knowledge base — plant growth facilities are essential laboratories and testing grounds for the 300-400 research projects housed there. 

Research Highlights

  • The Mattson group has established the Greenhouse Lighting Laboratory at Cornell AES greenhouses to determine the potential for LEDs and the resulting energy savings in Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA). This research is part of a National Science Foundation project to understand and enhance the scalability of urban CEA. The lab contains the latest state-of-the-art LEDs coupled with proprietary control software to quantify and ultimately aid commercial growers regarding the integration of these new technologies. Hydroponic growing systems are utilized to mimic commercial growing environments. More information: CEA viability in metro areas
    The Mattson lab also studies the impact of light quality and quantity on tomatoes, strawberries and CBD hemp. The team is developing energy efficient greenhouse lighting practices for the greenhouse industry.
    More information: Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE)  
    Researcher: Neil Mattson
  • The Raguso Lab studies hawkmoths (also known as sphinx moths) to understand how large pollinators use sensory information to find favorable habitats and food sources. Hawkmoths tend to visit and pollinate "moonflowers" — plants like gardenias, jasmines, daturas, evening primroses, four o'clocks — which have pale coloration, long nectar tubes and strong, usually pleasant perfumes. Students involved with this project are studying how hawkmoths respond to color, scent, humidity, non-sugar nectar components, and how well they acquire and transfer pollen during the course of flower visitation.
    Researcher: Robert Raguso
  • The invasive water chestnut (Trapa natans) has been a persistent problem in waterways in the Northeast, substantially impacting fishing and boating, water quality and aquatic habitat. Despite intensive efforts to control the plant using mechanical harvesting, hand pulling and herbicides, water chestnut has continued to expand its range in North America. This project researches biological control alternatives under carefully-managed quarantine conditions. The team is assessing the safety and efficacy of a Chinese leaf beetle that is highly specialized to feed on water chestnut in its native habitat.
    More information: Herbicides can't stop invasive plants. Can bugs?
    Researchers: Bernd Blossey, Wade Simmons

More greenhouse and growth chamber research highlights:

  • Steve Gabriel with the Small Farms Program is comparing yields and cost inputs for on-farm specialty mushroom production
  • Tim Setter's group is part of the NextGen Cassava project and focuses on developing methods by which breeders can improve flowering and seed production of cassava in breeding programs
  • The Robert Reed Lab uses flowering vines for their research on butterflies. By studying wing color variations, Reed's team seeks to understand the genesis of biodiversity
  • Mark Sorrells' team breeds wheat, barley and oats, for the Small Grains Research Program's variety trials and breeding projects
  • Michelle Heck is working on developing controls for Citrus greening, a disease that devastates citrus production all over the world  
  • Walter De Jong's program breeds potatoes for anthocyanin production — natural plant pigments that play a role in stress resistance
  • The Rose Lab uses tomato and tobacco plants for plant cell wall, cuticle and fruit development studies
  • Bill Miller's Flower Bulb Research Program selects mostly Dutch bulbs for variety trials of tulips, lilies, hyacinths, narcissus and other species
  • Janice Thies is testing biochar as a soil amendment for corn and soybean production to improve soil management practices and ensure the long-term sustainability of agricultural ecosystems
  • The Bogdanove Lab is working on finding resistance to Xanthomonas, a bacterial disease affecting rice and other crops worldwide
  • The Sijin Li Group is researching complex plant alkaloids that have pharmaceutical potential, and uses yeast to develop pathways for scalable bio-manufacturing

Controlling pollination of squash blossom in a greenhouse